Chiedozie Ogbene thriving with ‘very special’ Rotherham United

CHIEDOZIE OGBENE’S parents are both nurses.

Paul Warne, his manager at Rotherham United, also sees caring as part of his own vocation.

It is something that has always come naturally to the Millers chief, who views players as an extension of family. Happy, settled players are often successful ones.

A few quiet words, a text here and there or even a motivational message from loved ones ahead of a big game, Warne has always been big on the psychological well-being of his squad.

Rotherham United's Chiedozie Ogbene (centre) celebrating promotion to the Championship. Picture: Steven Paston/PA

Which brings us to Ogbene.

The winger has been a shining light for both club and country over the past 12 months.

‘Special’ is the word he uses to describe it and it is by no means an overstatement.

Alongside promotion with the Millers, the 25-year-old – who moved from the Nigerian state of Enugu at the age of eight to settle with his family in Cork – has burst onto the scene in a major way with the Republic of Ireland.

Ogbene has scored three times in eight appearances for the Boys in Green after winning his first cap against Hungary last June.

He netted a spectacular overhead kick against Belgium in March to instantly secure a place in the affections of supporters.

The Corkonian was Ireland’s man-of-the-match in their defeat in Armenia last weekend and is likely to step out in front of a home audience tonight when Stephen Kenny’s side host Ukraine in a Nations League game in Dublin.

It’s a busy time on the international front for Ogbene, with Scotland visiting the Aviva Stadium on Saturday. Ireland then head to the Polish city of Lodz for the reverse fixture with Ukraine.

Yet Ogbene’s career has not been all sunshine and roses.

It started out in comparative obscurity at Cork City and Limerick, where he regularly travelled to on the bus from Cork.

An inauspicious time followed in England at Brentford where he struggled for game time before his path eventually took him to Yorkshire in August 2019.

At a potential make-or-break time in his career, Ogbene has found sanctuary and a home from home under Warne and his diligent, attentive staff.

Ogbene, the first African-born player to be capped by the Republic at senior level, said: “The manager is always going to be there for his players.

“Even on Christmas Day, he texted me and asked me if I wanted to go over to his house to spend Christmas with him. I was with my cousins away in Leicester, but that’s the kind of guy he is.

“He does not want anyone to be isolated. He knows I live on my own in the UK and always reaches out to make sure I am okay. Matt Hamshaw also reaches out for me and wishes me well.

“They all want the best for me and they (coaching staff) are like parents to all the players really.”

Alongside their caring side, the attention to detail of Warne and his staff has played a pivotal part in developing Ogbene’s game.

He is the first to admit he was ‘quite raw’ when he came to United. He is now the real deal.

Ogbene added: “The reason I came to this club is the way the manager lured me.

“The management sat me down and showed me my clips. This is something that no manager had ever done with me before and that’s why he will continue to attract players here.

“The coaching staff are quite humane and believe in having a good human being first before a good footballer. They want people with good personalities and a good attitude to life.

“The manager showed me how good I am. At Brentford, I was not playing many games and he showed me good clips of myself and made me remember how good I was.

“The manager – and how he has trained and coached me – has been crucial to my success.

“I was quite raw when I came here and made some rash decisions in the final third. But I feel like the management have given me the confidence to be more relaxed and cause more problems.”

A quietly-spoken individual he may be, but Ogbene is also plainly ambitious. The Premier League is his avowed aim one day.

He is also a keen student of the game. His star shone intermittently during the Millers’ last foray in the Championship in 2020-21, but he returns to the second tier as a more rounded, smarter player whose game management has improved a fair few notches.

Ogbene also has a thirst for knowledge. His own analysis of his performances with Rotherham are scrupulous, which points to a player who is driven to develop his game further and not rest upon his laurels.

Ogbene, who excelled at Gaelic football with Cork club Nemo Rangers before pursuing his soccer dreams, said: “I think the most important thing is that after matches, they (Rotherham staff) help me analyse my game, which I did not do so much at the start of my career here (in England).

“I am watching my games a lot more and try to improve every week.

“They are very good people and want the best for me. They encourage everyone. It is a very special thing to be part of.”